“That happy, sunny place,” said Greta Garbo of the Grand Hotel Tremezzo, a glittering palazzo on the shores of Lake Como. Established by the Gandola family in 1910, the seven-storey hotel offers art nouveau elegance and a rich history, while the lure of Como is as strong today as it was when 19th century aristocrats flocked to its shores during their grand tours.
Over the past century, the Tremezzo has passed from the Gandolas to the Sampietro clan and then to the family of current owner Valentina De Santis, who grew up at Tremezzo and whose superb taste is evident throughout the hotel. De Santis has brought the 18th century “grande dame” of Lake Como bang up to date, while still retaining her old-world splendour. De Santis is also the mastermind behind the hotel’s T Spa (a multimillion-euro project comprising more than 1,000 sqm of “wellness space”), and the jaw-dropping rooftop floor complete with eight sweeping suites — think private terraces, jacuzzis and endless lake vistas.
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All 90 of the hotel’s rooms and suites have spectacular views, looking out over Como and the Riviera delle Azalee to the glittering town of Bellagio on the other side of the water. That view over Como also takes in the Tremezzo’s wonderful “Water on Water” pool, which floats on top of the lake.
The rooms themselves are a beautiful mixture of old and new, with sumptuous silk-swagged curtains, ornate gold mirrors and vintage furniture. Cleverly concealed floor-to-ceiling blackout shutters are operated remotely via a discreet bedside button (so discreet in fact that when The Week Portfolio visited, an evening call to reception was needed to find out where it was).
The turn-down service includes not only chocolates but written extracts from old diaries discovered during hotel renovations. Sample passages include: “You will be there, won’t you? At dawn, just like you promised? You laughed when I asked you a second time and I recall your eyes now as I step from my room and descend the hotel’s grand staircase…” Such melodrama seems entirely understandable in such a dramatic setting.
Pampering is high on the agenda at the Tremezzo. T Spa features five treatment rooms, a hamman, nail bar (with reclaimed Venetian mosaic floor), relaxation room, yoga studio, floodlit clay tennis court and a three-storey gym that is open around the clock. There are also two outdoor swimming pools, an indoor infinity pool and five types of Jacuzzi, or “hydro massage”. There’s even a guest suite housed within the spa building (Suite Emilia) with a whirlpool that is almost big enough to swim in, a double rainforest shower and a private steam room - all lined in white Lasa marble.
With five restaurants to choose from, prepare for gastronomic decadence:
La Terrazza The most up-scale of the bunch, overlooking Lake Como. We feasted on chef Gualtiero Marchesi’s incredible tasting menu, which includes his signature dish, traditional Milanese saffron risotto flecked with 24-carat gold.
L’Escale Trattoria and Wine Bar An informal hideaway lined with vintage Italian photographs and stocked with all the wines, cheeses and meats you could wish for. Hole up in here at least once.
T Bar A romantic lounge, complete with adjoining lakeside terrace and evening pianist (try the killer martinis).
T Pizza Naples may be the fabled home of the margherita but Tremezzo has nailed the execution. Creamy Bufala Campana, freshly skinned tomatoes and basil plucked from the surrounding gardens atop a hand-stretched base, cooked in a traditional outdoor wood-brick oven. Maybe it’s the proportion of each ingredient, maybe it’s the oven, maybe it’s the sunshine - but whatever it is, it’s to die for.
T Beach Overlooking the floating lake pool, this sand-floored outside bar offers laidback lunches and barbecues.
Villa Sola Cabiati
Last year, Tremezzo took over the management of Villa Sola Cabiati, a nearby 18th century palace previously forbidden to travellers but now fully open to paying guests. The villa is a short car journey away from the main hotel, but by far the most glamorous way to arrive is as we did: by vintage 1960s Venetian Lancia speedboat (available for use to all hotel guests).
Originally the summer residence of a family of dukes (the Serbellonis), Villa Sola Cabiati is as wildly over the top as you might expect of an aristocratic playground flanking the shores of Lake Como. Huge ornate black and gold wrought-iron entrance gates open to reveal a smiling housekeeper who leads us down a gravel drive past landscaped gardens. A top-of-the-range sound system hidden within stuccoed walls plays classical music as we step, open-mouthed, into a living piece of Italian history.
The palace sleeps 12 guests, with six magnificent suites, each a treasure trove of antique furnishings and original Renaissance art. There’s even a private museum floor housing a bed slept in by Napoleon and his wife Joséphine de Beauharnais, who were friends of the Serbelloni family. It’s easy to picture the Milanese nobility of old partying here for days on end.
Guests staying at Sola Cabiati have a team of staff permanently on hand, including a butler, a private chef, a housekeeper and a villa manager. You probably wouldn’t want to leave but should guests wish to take a stroll to the main hotel, access to Grand Hotel Tremezzo’s wide range of facilities is also included in the rental price.
This Italian palace is a perfect venue for weddings but ultimately, no one needs any reason to come here other than to have bucket loads of fun - exactly as the Serbelloni family intended. La dolce vita, indeed.
Abercrombie & Kent (01242 547 703, abercrombiekent.co.uk) offers a three-night trip to Lake Como, staying at The Grand Hotel Tremezzo from £1,090pp b&b, including return private transfers and flights.
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